The World According to Keitho

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Archive for July, 2011

On crabs, national and international

Posted by keithosaunders on July 28, 2011

My time in New York City is finally nearing its close.  I’ll be here for another nine days before hitting the road for my second west-bound cross-country trip in as many years. 

Amazingly enough I still have three gigs to play here — two on the Island, and one in Rye, which is in northern Westchester.  All in all I will have ended up playing double-digit gigs during my seven plus weeks here — not bad for a non-resident.

It’s been interesting experiencing New York for an extended period of time from an outsider’s point of view.  On the one hand, I still know it like the back of my hand, but on the other hand I see it through new eyes. 

I’ve certainly become familiar with all of the subway lines up to the Bronx.  Reading and listening material are key for the late night trip uptown, which often lasts well over an hour, between all of the stops and the wait time.  I use the reading material for the trip down, when I’m still sober.  The ipod gets me through the return trip. 

By far the greatest thing about New York is the people who live here.  They are smart, funny, and very much open.  I can’t tell you how many spontaneous conversations I’ve had since being here.  Whether it be on the subway, at a lecture in Bryant park, or at the local sports bar, people here are happy to shmooze.  This is a schoomzing kind of a town! 

Paris is a great city — probably my second favorite city in the world behind New York — but the Parisians won’t give you the time of day.  Sure, part of it is the language barrier, and the fact that they hate Americans, but I would wager two tickets to the Jerry Lewis retrospective of your choice that they do not behave  that differently towards their French compatriots.  

New Yorkers can be crabby, but their surliness is often accompanied by a healthy dose of humor.  Parisians are just plain crabby, end of story. 

Now how about those Mets?!


Posted in New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Grand Central Division

Posted by keithosaunders on July 25, 2011

Pittsburgh 52 47 .525 26-25 26-22 382 378 +4 Won 1 6-4
St. Louis 53 48 .525 25-21 28-27 474 438 +36 Lost 1 5-5
Milwaukee 54 49 .524 33-14 21-35 443 452 -9 Lost 2 5-5
Cincinnati 50 51 .495 3 27-23 23-28 469 433 +36 Won 2 5-5
Chicago Cubs 42 60 .412 11.5 25-31 17-29 411 507 -96 Won 3 5-5
Houston 33 68 .327 20 17-36 16-32 388 506 -118 Lost 3 3-7

Don’t look now but there’s a classic pennant race shaping up and it’s not where you’d expect.  Forget your AL East with its twin behemoth Yankees and Redsox — their passion play will not begin until October, since the team that doesn’t win the division figures to take the wild card.

The action this year resides in the NL Central; that erstwhile laughing-stock of a division.  There, four teams sit separated by two games in the standings.  Given the fact that the NL East-residing Atlanta Braves figure to take the wild card, only one Central club will advance to the playoffs.

My sentiments lie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are at this writing, leading the division by percentage points over the Cardinals.  The Pirates have reached the rarefied air of five games above .500, threatening to break their ignominious streak of consecutive losing seasons, currently at eighteen.  It is the longest such streak in professional sports. 

The Buccos are winning with a team of gritty, young ball players.  (that’s what several consecutive years of high draft picks, and a savvy GM will do for you) It’s rare for me to watch a Pirate game in which I fail to utter the sentence, “Who is that guy?”  

Andrew McCutchen is a speedy young center fielder who has 59 RBI.  Their second baseman is Neil Walker, a slick fielder, and a good run producer as well.  Their only semi-star is Lyle Overbay, who is playing first base.  The pitching has been surprisingly solid behind Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, and Paul Maholm, and their closer, Joel Hanrahan, has been superb. 

The Cardinals are the favorites, with their murderers row middle of the lineup — Pujols, Holiday, and Berkman — but I’m hoping that their shaky bullpen will see to it that the do not run away and hide. 

Milwaukee was a sexy pick at the beginning of the season, and they are proving themselves worthy of the hype.  They’re a good team, and as long as K-Rod doesn’t blow too many games, they are going to be fine.  They’re another team I would like to see take the next step. 

I can’t stand the Reds pitching.  Johnny Cueto?  Edinson Volquez?  Homer Bailey?  It speaks volumes that Dontrelle Willis is making a comeback with this staff.  Still, they’re  another good hitting club that may be able to hang around. 

You see, this is why interleague play is a sham.  Here you have four teams in a pennant race, and they’re all going to playing each other come August and September.  While the Yankees, Phillies, and Redsox, spend September sorting out their post season rotations, there will be daily blood-lettings in the middle of the country.  Interleague is a distraction from pennant race baseball.  It is a novelty act that has worn thin.

If MLB has its way, however, we will see the expansion of interleague play, as well as the end of pennant races as we have known them since 1969, the year divisional play was introduced.  There has been a plan floated around that would do away with divisions, creating two 15 team leagues.  The schedule would be balanced, meaning that all teams would play each other the same amount of times, regardless of league.  Imagine if the Pirates played the Royals the same amount of times as they did the Cardinals.   

Baseball seems high bent on removing any sense of tradition from the game, rendering it corporate and soulless.  All the more reason for us to savor what could well be one of the last great divisional races.  

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Summer in the city

Posted by keithosaunders on July 17, 2011

Another great week spent in New York.  What a town!  I can’t believe I lived here for so many years. 

I had three gigs this week, and when I wasn’t gigging I was hanging out in the city, mostly at my favorite club, Small’s.  I’ve got long hair and a goatee now and everyone says that I look like a Californian.  Of course this belies the fact that I often had this look during my New York years.  Back then it would have bothered me to have been mistaken for a Californian, as if there was an inherent put-down in such a comment.  These days I don’t care; in fact, I’m amused by it.  Listen, there’s no denying it any longer..I am a Californian.

Musicians have been very welcoming to me since my return.  They seem genuinely happy to see me and curious about what my life in the Bay Area is like.  For my part, it feels great to be able to feel at home on both coasts.  Something that never occurred to me in all of my New York years, was that it is possible to actually like both places.  The inclination is to belittle the opposite coast.  I’m guilty of it —  there are jokes to be mined, for crying out loud!  But at this point, from where I stand, it’s a waste of energy.

A highpoint of my stay has been sitting in for one tune at the late night jam session at Small’s in the Village.  I was hanging out at the bar during the regular gig.  After the band finished I was getting ready to head to the subway to go back to the Bronx when I noticed that there was no piano player to start the session.  I figured, what the heck, I’ll play a tune.  A sax player began the first few notes of Oleo by himself, and boom, we were off. 

There is something about the energy of New York musicians that is at a different level than all others.  I lived here for 26 years, and after a while you can’t help taking it for granted.  But being away from it for a year and jumping back into the pool is an amazing experience the momentum is both startling and infectious.  

I didn’t know any of the musicians — they were all young guys — but it felt great to be in there with them, holding my own, and enjoying the energy.  The best part, for me, was the realization that even though I no longer live in new York, I haven’t lost that energy — that fire.

I played one tune, and ceded the piano bench to a young woman sitting in the front row who was patiently waiting her turn.  I went home on the subway, which slogged its way up the 2 train tracks, and arrived in the Bronx an hour and a half later, none the worse for wear.

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Christmas in July

Posted by keithosaunders on July 10, 2011

There exists a house on Pelham Parkway North, in the northeast Bronx, that is known alternately as The Christmas House, and the Crazy House.   Every year, right after Thanksgiving its denizens mount a display that utilizes every free inch of available lawn space with Christmas decorations.  They come complete with lights, sleds, a nativity scene, and for some reason, Liberace’s piano and candelabra. 

The house is located on the service road of Pelham Parkway, and it has such notoriety that for the six or seven weeks that the decorations are up, the street remains in a perpetual state of gridlock.  The traffic is backed up for blocks and it takes a good ten or fifteen minutes to traverse an eighth of a mile.

One wonders how and why the neighbors put up with this.  There is Christmas music playing at a fairly loud level, and I’m sure that the glare from the lights must be intrusive.  I’ve often wondered what the electricity bill must be for those two months.

My friend informed me that not all of the Christmas decorations get taken in for the winter.  I suppose that the house is unable to store them all.  The other day I took my camera along on a morning jog and shot a few photos. 

Without further ado I give you…Christmas in July.





Liberace himself actually goes into storage for the summer

Posted in New York City | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Night on the town

Posted by keithosaunders on July 7, 2011

I’ve been back east for three weeks now so i figured it was time to hit some of the ol’ spots.  I was upstate for a week, but for the most part I have been holed up in the Bronx watching baseball games. 

I decided I owed myself a night on the town so I took the subway down from Pelham Parkway to West 72nd street from which I walked down to 49th street to eat at my favorite Japanese soup kitchen, Sapporo. 

Last Sunday I attended a lecture on the British Invasion given by a trio of authors.  I had a great time and thought it was a fascinating subject.  It made me want to attend more lectures, particularly politically themed. 

 I spent ten minutes on google and came up with a reading at Bryant Park given by a history professor at CCNY who had written a book on Walt Whitman and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  

Much of the lecture had to do with the great influence that Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on the abolition movement.  The professor claimed that it caused such a stir that it set into motion events that culminated in the civil war. 

I would say it was a good, but not great lecture, owing to the fact that the professor was reading from prepared text, and he wasn’t that engaging of a speaker.  Still, I enjoyed it enough to want to go to more lectures.  I have to admit, though, I was the youngest person there by a good 15 years.  And I’m 50!

After the lecture I took a subway down to the Lower East side to see my friend, and trumpet player, extraordinaire, Richie Vitale, play at a brand new club called The Moldy Fig.  It is a beautiful venue, and although it was sparsely attended, the music was great.  I sat in on three tunes. 

Afterwards I went to Small’s, which is in the Village.  There I saw a great trio led by pianist Mike LeDonne.  

After his set I ran into the drummer, Gerry Gibbs, who is the son of vibest, Terry Gibbs.  I have known Gerry since I was a senior in high school.  At that time he was a 13 year old phenom.  Gerry recalled that we had our first gig at a local McDonald’s.  We were paid in food, but there were certain high-price items, such as large coke, that we were forbidden from ordering.  Gerry’s memory is so good that he actually recalls, note for note, the bass line that my friend Milo used to play.  You might think he could hum any old notes and who’s to argue?  The thing is that they ring a bell with me.  I actually believe he remembers it!

I hung out until 1:30 before beginning on my return sojourn to the Bronx.  The train crawled along at the speed of a covered wagon.  All and all it was a 90 minute trip and I finally arrived home at 4AM.

A good night.

Stanton st on the Lower East Side

Posted in New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Old fogey Keitho rebuts interleague comment

Posted by keithosaunders on July 4, 2011

A couple of days ago I posted about my antipathy of interleague play.  I received this comment from Chris:

An absolutely awful analysis of interleague play IMHO. You fail to cite the reasons why you dislike interleague play in detail when the majority of baseball fans like myself love it. Sure NY fans like myself love playing the enemy in our home park which is great for bragging rights but you fail to take in to account that this is just a game. Stop being so serious, baseball is entertainment. MLB players love interleague play as well. Although free agency has destroyed some of the luster and the high number of teams hurts the competitive feel, on any given day I rather watch my Mets play the Angels for the first time in like 4 years than watch us play the dreadful Nationals every year. Interleague baseball is good publicity, good for business which in turn is great for baseball. The NY Mets sold out the three games series against the Yankees at Citi Field which was only the 4 sellout for them this year. It was great to watch them score all those runs against the Tigers and play by AL rules allowing the DH. Interleague is far from being a problem in baseball its actually alot closer to being a cure. THe real problems with baseball start with parity. NO payroll limits allows teams like the rED SOX AND YANKEES compete every year on payrolls hovering around 200 million. Baseball needs a salary cap. No way can small market teams can realistically compete for the WS. Baseball is a sport of greed and the lack of a salary cap kills the fun. I am so sick and tired of seeing the same teams in the playoffs year after year. The rich also seem to get richer. So instead of worrying so much about interleague play how about we get to the root of the problem.

Back in the 1970s, with the addition of division play, the schedules —  at least in the National League where there were 12 teams —  had symmetry.  The teams played their divisional opponents 18 times, and the teams in the other division 12 times.  This way, if you missed Willie Stargel and the Pirates the first time around in May, the chances were you could catch him in August.  You became intimately familiar with the teams in your league, and there were certain teams that you looked forward to seeing.  This year the A’s played the Redsox twice in Oakland.   If you were a Redsox fan living in Oakland and missed them in that midweek series in May, then you were out of luck for 2011. 

In the old days, a National league fan such as myself was pretty much unfamiliar with the Junior Circuit.  This lent the A.L. teams an air of mystery.  Consequently, by the time the Series rolled around you were pumped to see whatever team made it.  It was a true novelty to see the Redsox and Reds square off in 1975, or the Athletics and Mets in 1973.  If the A’s and Mets were to meet in this year’s series, it would be no great novelty, although it would be great for me since I’m a Mets fan who is transplanted in the East Bay, 10 miles from Oakland. 

The Yankees and Mets played the subway Series in 2000, which was great for New York, even if it was not so great for the Mets fan. (don’t get me started on that bum, Clemens)  How much greater would it have been had these teams not already played a half-dozen or so interleague series.  Incidentally, the 2000 Series, up to that point, was the lowest rated World Series of all time. 

If the country at large didn’t think the Mets-Yankees World Series was anything special, why would they care that much about regular season games.  On the contrary, I know some out-of-state fans that are resentful of having New York baseball shoved down their throats every Sunday of interleague play.  The same goes for the Freeway or Bay Bridge series.  I watched Dodgers-Angels last night and believe me, the adrenalin was not flowing. 

Finally, the All Star game used to be one of the great mid-season events.  I would look forward to it for weeks, wondering how Steve Carlton would face Jim Rice, or if Dave Parker could hit Ron Guidry.  Now….who cares?  Apparently not many, as baseball had to come up with gimmicks such as home run derby and Series home field implications in attempts to gin up interest.

I’m pretty certain that the crux of Chris and my disagreement has a lot to do with a generation gap.  I am nostalgic for the way baseball was played in my youth, and Chris made some valid points about the benefits of  interleague play.  I stand by my opinion — I want my National League baseball during the regular season.  If I want to see the American League there is always the Oakland As.

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Sayonara to interleague

Posted by keithosaunders on July 2, 2011

The exhibition season is almost over, and by that I mean interleague play.  Just two more days and we can get back to real baseball.  Unfortunately for the Mets they scored an entire week’s worth of runs in two games played earlier this week against the Tigers; 14 on Tuesday, and 16 on Wednesday.  Since then they have gone cold, just in time for the bi-annual subway series. 

What a crock of shit interleague play is.  Nobody, save for a handful of New Yorkers and Chicagoans gives a rats ass about these games.  I don’t even think the Bay Bridge series is that big of a deal, although I have yet to garner first hand proof as I managed to be out-of-town for both of their meetings this year.

Really, though, who cares about Milwaukee vs Seattle, or Pittsburgh, vs Kansas City?  Sure, you can have some fun with some rematches of past World Series, but is this worth disrupting the flow of the regular season?

Me, I’d rather see the Mets play more games against the Cardinals and Dodgers than have to suffer through the interleague portion of the season.  Intra-league matchups, even those out of the division, can be worth a game in the standings when you take into account the wild card race.  Interleague games are worth a 1/2 game at best. 

So let’s put this asinine section of the schedule behind us.  Time for the meat and potatoes of the season!

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

I am Woman

Posted by keithosaunders on July 1, 2011

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

We look back on this song, written and sung by Helen Reddy, and we think, “wow, is that corny.”  Yes it is corny, but it’s a well-written song with a decent melody, and for its time it was fairly subversive.  You can’t deny that it’s catchy — I’m still humming it 40 years later, and I remember most of the lyrics.

But think about it…this song could never be written today.  It would never become a hit.  It is devoid of irony.  These days a song has to be cynical, ironic, and “hip.”  Can you imagine Lady Gaga singing something as obvious as I Am Woman?  Personally, I can’t imagine her carrying any tune, but that’s besides the point. 

When you consider the early 70s, it wasn’t as if the music was dominated by Lawrence Welk.  The Beatles had already come and gone, but the Stones were till going strong, as was Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder, all of whom could be heard at various times on top 40 radio.  These days hit radio is dominated by artists who rely on auto-tune, droning one-chord vamps, with robotic [non] grooves. 

Personally I would welcome a little corn.  I hate that things have to be so contrived and vacuum-packed.  So where are the corny message songs of today?

Posted in music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »